I want to thank Staff Writer Randy Billings for holding up a mirror to Bayside in his May 6 article. I found it interesting that so many letter writers saw lack of empathy reflected back.

I can tell you what empathy looks like on the ground (quite literally). Take this as a random example; it’s merely the most recent opportunity for empathy we’ve had living near the mall of human misery between Preble and Oxford streets.

My wife was working from home when she heard vicious yelling outside our window and saw a woman being kicked in the head and left in the street.

If you’d witnessed this, you’d have done what she did: Call 911, divert traffic, hold the woman’s hand while she had a seizure and eventually regained consciousness, stay to provide police testimony, sift through security footage for evidence, worry about the outcome. All in all, a full afternoon well spent in aid of someone in obvious need.

Why do we in Bayside have so many opportunities for empathy? Because our neighbors are your neighbors – or people who would still be your neighbors, if your municipality helped those in need the way Portland tries to with the services concentrated in Bayside. Tries and fails, unfortunately, as perpetrators too often follow victims here. Preble Street Executive Director Mark Swann points out in the article: Service-providers have rules but no mission to shield their clients or the neighborhood from those whom they attract, then bar.

Some Portland policymakers want to build a better shelter, one to accommodate increased need, with protections for both clients and neighbors based on proven best practices, and with wrap-around services that are currently lacking. Your opportunity for empathy is to support such a proposal when it seems costly or “enabling,” or when the location is, perhaps, a little closer to your door.

Jim Hall


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